The bikini is back in the closet, the days are getting shorter and the leaves have begun to turn yellow. It can only mean one thing: the holidays are over and it’s back-to-school! Parents may find themselves going pale a little earlier than anticipated as they contemplate the hefty bill in the works. We can’t tell you how to lighten your child’s schoolbag, but here are some easy tips to reduce your back-to-school budget.
How much do you think parents will spend this year for the latest style of schoolbag, notebooks, pencils, pens and miscellaneous supplies requested by the school or the teacher? You don’t have to be a math wiz to see how much this strains the household budget, especially for large families. So – we’re going to have to use our heads! Here are some tips.
- Begin as early as possible. Begin your shopping as soon as the school year is over, before going on holiday. You’ll be more relaxed, shops will be less busy, and your choice will be more limited and therefore simpler. Moreover, your finances will likely be in better shape than after you return from holiday. Also, don’t forget that summer sales begin in early July. Next year maybe!
- Make a list of what your child already has. Start by working out what can be kept, and what definitely needs replacing. A pencil, even half-used, can be sharpened and is good to go! The same goes for that almost-new rubber, or the notebook with only three pages used. Finally, hunt down any unused supplies you have at home. It would be silly to repurchase something you already have lying at the back of a drawer.
- Make a list of the supplies you need. Don’t improvise your shopping, under penalty of seeing your bill mushroom… or to having to make another trip for something you forgot. Increasingly, schools provide a list of supplies requested by each teacher. You can find this list on the school’s website. One piece of advice: follow this list to the letter, including where a specific brand is required, to avoid a bruising conversation with your child’s teacher who will sometimes be inflexible.
- Compare prices online. You can of course choose to shop online instead of at a brick-and-mortar shop or supermarket. The time savings are obvious, and prices can be much more attractive. There is a greater availability of products than in supermarkets, especially if you shop just before school starts again. In any event, compare prices before you buy.
Fashion considerations and peer pressure […] can be hazardous to the health of your wallet.
- Don’t take your children shopping. If you choose to shop in a store, it’s best to leave the kids at home, at least for the bulk of your purchases. Children, like us, can fall prey to marketing ploys. Fashion considerations and peer pressure should be kept out of the frame when choosing school supplies, as they can be hazardous to the health of your wallet. Make compromises: OK for the Superman pencil case, but let’s keep the schoolbag low key or customise last year’s one!
- Buy in bulk. You’ll get a better price per unit, and it’s smart thinking, because our dear little ones have an unfortunate tendency to lose seven tubes of glue a year, four erasers, and so on. Besides, refer to tip #2 and remember that any spare supplies can be used the following year. Our world is going digital, but we’re still using paper!
- Adjust the purchase to your child’s needs. Invest in better quality supplies as your children grow older. If your eight-year-old is tracing her first circles, no need to get her a state-of-the-art drawing compass. However, it’s perfectly reasonable to invest in good-quality, solid tools for your eldest who is embarking on a science curriculum.
- Go to a book exchange, where you can resell last year’s textbooks and buy those you need for the coming one. It’s also a good opportunity to educate your children about the need to look after their belongings and keep them in good condition for their younger siblings, or to resell at a good price later on. These exchanges cater mainly to secondary schools. Find out how your child’s school is organised. As obligatory textbooks are now for free in secondary schools, book exchange have almost disappeared.
- Educate your children about the value of things. Of course, your children have desires, however fickle. But as they grow older, they become increasingly amenable to reason. Returning to school can be a good time to teach them about financial value, durability and the need to look after your possessions. The primary function of a pen is to write. As long as it fulfils this function, it makes sense to keep it, even if it is not decked out in the latest Batman movie theme.
Basically, you just need to make a precise list of your needs, to get ahead of the September rush, to resist marketing ploys, and to enquire about existing structures.
- Back to school also spells extracurricular activities. Some will set you back more than others. For instance, the Sports Department of Luxembourg City runs a “Sports for Everyone” programme, offering your favorite sport at unbeatable prices. You spend less cash and your children expend more energy. Don’t hesitate to contact your commune to find out what they offer and what is still possible during this pandemic period.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of tricks to lighten the burden of back-to-school expenses. Basically, you just need to make a precise list of your needs, to get ahead of the September rush, to resist marketing ploys, and to enquire about existing structures.
Useful tip: The Luxembourg State automatically pays out a back-to-school allowance to parents of children who are enrolled in a Grand Duchy school. It applies to each child in a family and amounts to EUR115 for children from the age of 6, and EUR235 for those aged 12 or more (up to the end of secondary or equivalent studies). The amount of this allowance may vary from year to year.